As the number of coronavirus cases in Prince William County continues to rise, officials in the Virginia county are planning multiple larger-scale testing events in advance of the winter holidays to alleviate demand.
Dr. Alison Ansher, director of the county’s health district, told WTOP local officials are coordinating with the Virginia National Guard to organize public testing sites that would conduct an extra 500 tests per day. Those samples would be reviewed in a state lab.
Ansher said at least one of the larger testing sites would be held at night to enable working residents to be tested after traditional working hours. Exact dates and locations have yet to be determined.
The plans for a larger scale testing operation come as several of the county-run sites ran out of tests in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Some residents were turned away because the county’s lab partner wouldn’t be able to process more than 200 tests from each testing location in a timely manner.
“We also felt that the timing was important, because it will identify, potentially, [an] increase in cases due to the holiday season,” Ansher said.
The sudden demand for testing in the county went unanticipated because earlier in November, Ansher said there had been “less of a demand.”
Prince William County officials said they believed that would remain true given warnings about traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, and government guidance to avoid interaction with anyone outside of a household.
But cases in the county are already surging: Prince William County’s health district reported 41 cases per 100,000 residents on Monday, even before an expected Thanksgiving surge that wouldn’t manifest on Virginia’s coronavirus data until mid-December.
Ansher said small gatherings in people’s homes for homecoming and Halloween and league sports activities are contributing to the county’s increased caseload. Some workplace outbreaks have also contributed.
On Monday, for one, the City of Manassas described “a dramatic increase in cases of COVID-19 among trash and recycling crews.”
While the county is working to expand its testing footprint, Ansher advised patients with insurance who can be tested through their primary care physicians. local urgent care centers or pharmacies to do so.
“Our hope is that our most vulnerable uninsured, where we’ve tended to gear a lot of these weekly testing sites to, have the ability to take advantage, because their choices are limited,” she said.
As the weather cools off, Ansher is urging the public to “heed the message, you know, those mitigation strategies are important — the face covering, the social distancing, the hand washing, and not going to work when you’re sick.”
A list of daily testing sites is available on the county’s website.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to receive an update on the coronavirus in the region from the Office of Emergency Management during a meeting late Tuesday
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.
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